As noted by Michael Egnor, Jerry Coyne at Why Evolution Is True doesn’t believe in free will, and says:
There are ramifications for the justice system. I firmly believe that if we grasped that nobody, including criminals, has a “choice” in whether or not to do something, like mugging someone, we would structure the justice system differently, concentrating less on retribution and more on keeping baddies out of society, trying to reform them, and using punishment as a deterrent to improve society.
I decided to write Coyne an e-mail, saying, “If no one has any free will, then everything, including whether or not society accepts your ideas on justice, was determined long ago by the initial conditions at the Big Bang, so why work so hard trying to convince people, just sit back and see what they do.”
But then I thought, maybe there’s no point in trying to convince him that this is pointless, because whether or not he will keep trying to convert people to his point of view was also determined a long time ago. On further reflection, I think I’ll just sit back and see if I write him or not…
An Entirely Mechanical Process
Stephen Hawking believed that humans are just complicated robots who evolved though an entirely mechanical process, so why should we be surprised that he believed real robots might eventually evolve consciousness and ultimately become smarter than humans and take over the world?
Maybe some rogue scientists will design robots that can reproduce, and then robots could “evolve” by themselves. Maybe a robot could somehow eventually be designed that contained a fully automated robot factory inside, with the ability to construct new robots — each with an automated robot-building factory inside it. Then perhaps species of robots could progress on their own, by natural selection acting on the minor duplication errors that arise when robots reproduce. (Though unless there are intelligent humans around to repair the robots, anyone but a science fiction enthusiast would expect the inevitable accumulation of errors to cause the whole process to grind to a halt in a few generations.)
Easier with Intelligent Designers
Eventually, maybe these robots would evolve intelligence of their own, and become conscious, and subjugate us more slowly evolving humans. If you believe that a purely mechanical, unintelligent process could produce intelligent, conscious, beings once, why would you not believe it could happen again? And if you could believe the whole process started by pure chance the first time, wouldn’t it be even easier to believe it could happen again, with intelligent designers around this time to help it get started?
Quite honestly, I think we should be grateful to people like Coyne and Hawking, who carry materialism to its logical conclusions, and in so doing clearly show the rest of the world how absurd their assumptions really are.
Photo: Jerry Coyne interviewed by Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report (screen shot).